The FBI, Omaha police officers, Omaha firefighters and Douglas County Sheriff’s Department deputies held a practice drill inside the Oak View Mall Thursday morning. The exercise was one of dozens happening around the country this week.
It's the culmination of months of emergency drill planning. About 100 officers, agents and mall security guards worked together with limited information. "We're given a scenario which we're not aware of until the training starts," said Tom Metz, FBI special agent in charge of the Omaha division. "Involves bad guys doing certain things and we have to make decisions, momentary decisions, as to what are we going to do."
The FBI said this was in response to the Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Kenya last September. “We have no intelligence whatsoever that something like that would happen here in the U.S., but our feeling is with law enforcement that it's better to practice and train for something,” said Metz.
Metz said this was the first time locally that emergency crews have taken over a mall to this extent to practice a response. The specifics of the five-hour drill that began just after midnight remain secret for good reason, but we do know these agencies were responding as if there were a mass casualty event happening inside the mall.
"These exercises are good for handling some issues that arise in joint operations such as problems with communication,” said Special Agent Metz. “It's great to work on that, it's great in law enforcement to put a name with a face. We're building up relationships tonight."